Lengthy traffic jams loom after striking engineers win labour council ruling
Published Tuesday, November 14, 2017 1:25PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 15, 2017 7:45AM EST
The provincial government is once again pressuring road engineers to resume contract negotiations after losing a decision at a labour tribunal.
The labour tribunal ruled on Monday that inspecting bridges, highways, and other structures is not an essential service.
That means the province's engineers, who have been refusing to work nights and weekends, will be able to close highways and inspect 22 bridges, cloverleafs, and other ramps during regular business hours, starting this week.
One of them is the busy interchange between Highways 13 and 40.
The province had argued that doing that work during the day would cause lengthy traffic jams.
In her ruling, Judge Myriam Bedard said that if the work was so essential it had to be done by Dec. 1, the Ministry of Transportation should have made arrangements during the summer.
She pointed out that engineers with APIGQ have been without a contract for two years, and have been taking job action since mid-September.
The head of the engineers' union says it offered to do partial inspections during the night, but Quebec refused, saying it wanted complete inspections for security reasons.
The union also said many of the jobs, like the inspection of the Turcot interchange, demand special expertise which requires extra work from its members.
Engineers have been asking for a 20 per cent salary increase over seven years, while the provincial Treasury Board has been offering nine per cent.
On Tuesday Treasury Board president Pierre Arcand said he was frustrated with the process and said it was long past time to negotiate a contract.
“When you have negotiations with more than half a million workers in the public sector, what we need to do as a government is to have coherence in whatever we want to do and we want to make the necessary adjustments for everybody. But at the same time we have to be coherent and asking 19 per cent is not coherent as far as we are concerned,” he said.
He also said there's no shortage of people who are qualified to do the work.
"What we are being told is there's no problem in the sense that right now when there's a job that needs to be filled there's a lot of demand for it right now," said Arcand.
Quebec hasn't ruled out imposing a contract on enginers through legislation.